Say yes to Smithers Special Olympics

The Smithers Special Olympics local is seeking new volunteers to help lead the organization to a better place.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of volunteer hours in Canada, rose to 2 billion in 2004 from just over 1 billion in 2000.

Volunteer hours were dedicated to a broad spectrum of non-profit and voluntary organizations.

Leading the way with 21 per cent of those hours were sports and recreation organizations, followed by religion and social services with 19 and 12 per cent, respectively.

Of the more than 160,000 non-profit and voluntary organizations, only eight per cent are dedicated to persons with special needs.

In British Columbia, there 20,270 non-profit and voluntary organizations, 11 per cent of which dedicate themselves to serving people with disabilities.

One of those groups is Special Olympics, founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

In Canada, the first national competition hosted by Special Olympics Canada was in 1969.

Today, Special Olympics Canada is dedicated to improving the lives of more than 34,000 athletes of various ages.

Smithers has its own Special Olympics local, led by Gayle and Earnie Harding.

The Smithers Special Olympics local has been around since 1996 and the Hardings have been there for all but two of those years, dedicating themselves to helping their granddaughter who has special needs and the lives of other special needs persons in Smithers.

Unfortunately, but certainly understandable, after many years of dedicated leadership, the Hardings and other members of the executive committee are ready to pass the torch on to others.

Despite the strong levels of volunteerism, up to 58 per cent of the non-profit and voluntary organizations told Statistics Canada their biggest challenge was attracting the types of volunteers they needed and almost half said they also have difficulty retaining volunteers.

By this standard alone, the Hardings and their fellow executive members have given more than their fair share of time.

But, judging by the informal poll the Interior-News conducted this week, and by our Streeter responses, Smithers is chock full of volunteers and people who want to volunteer.

I hope a few dedicated volunteers step up and take the torch and ensure the Smithers Olympics local continues to put smiles on faces.

I know I will.

– Percy N. Hébert/Interior News